Rox Does Yoga

Yoga, Wellness, and Life

Yoga: The Art of Transformation May 31, 2013

Filed under: yoga — R. H. Ward @ 11:38 am
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Yoga: The Art of Transformation

 

I’ve been taking a bit of a blog break this week after traveling for the Memorial Day holiday, but I just found out about this and had to share: the Smithsonian will be running a ground-breaking special exhibit called Yoga: The Art of Transformation this fall. I haven’t had time to look at the materials in-depth yet, but the planned exhibit looks amazing. I’m excited because I have a potential business trip to DC on the calendar for this fall and so I might actually be able to view the exhibit in person – but even if I can’t see it myself, they’re planning an in-depth online exhibit as well.

The Smithsonian is hoping to crowdfund most of the costs, so if you’re feeling so inclined, check out their fundraising page!

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Man of the People May 23, 2013

Filed under: reflections,TV — R. H. Ward @ 12:40 pm
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Recently F and I watched an episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation called “Man of the People.” In this episode, the Enterprise is transporting Ramid Ves Alkar, an ambassador and peace negotiator, along with his elderly mother, to a war-torn planet. When Alkar’s mother dies en-route, he remains calm and composed, and no one thinks much of it since she seemed to be old and sick, suffering dementia. Then Counselor Troi starts exhibiting strange behavior: acting angrily and maliciously, dressing seductively, making inappropriate lewd comments to other crew members. When she begins aging prematurely, the crew discovers that Alkar has created a psychic and empathic link with Troi: in order to stay so tranquil in his work at the negotiating table, he dumps all his negative emotions into Troi, and the onslaught is killing her. Captain Picard discovers that Alkar has done this many times, and the woman they thought was his mother was actually just his latest victim. Alkar argues that his success in negotiating peace is worth the women’s sacrifice because millions of people will be saved from death in war. The Enterprise crew disagrees and finds a way to break Alkar’s link with Troi. The overload of negative emotions rebounds onto Alkar, ending his life.

From a yogic and moral perspective, there’s a lot going on in this episode! Many people would agree with Alkar that the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few. However, Picard disagrees, saying, “You cannot explain away a wantonly immoral act because you think that it is connected to some higher purpose.” As Captain, Picard’s primary responsibility here is for the safety of his crew member, but Picard also refuses to let Alkar continue using others; when the Enterprise crew makes their plan to save Troi, they know that Alkar will choose another “receptacle” for his emotions, and they keep that woman’s safety in mind as well. They must rescue Troi, but sacrificing another innocent person is an unacceptable alternative, even if it means that Alkar will be unable to negotiate a peace treaty for the warring factions. Compromise isn’t acceptable here. Picard acts in keeping with the yogic principle of ahimsa, or nonviolence.

From a yogic perspective, I’m interested in Alkar’s chosen method of dealing with negative emotions. While we can’t create a psychic link and channel our emotions directly into another person, most of us do have some experience with pushing negative emotions away so we don’t have to feel them, or taking our hurt, fear, or anger out on another person with negative consequences. It’s perfectly natural not to want to deal with dark emotions – it’s not fun! But learning how to be with our emotions, how to experience them and then set them aside, makes us stronger people, calmer in the long run, and better able to enjoy happiness when it comes our way.

Alkar had chosen to work as an ambassador and peace negotiator, which is a noble aim, but it’s telling that, with an entire galaxy to explore and the meditation techniques of thousands of races to choose from, Alkar instead chose to oppress another person to accomplish his goals. Alkar tells Picard, “I get no payment. I have no power base, no agenda. I’m willing to risk my life simply to help others,” and Picard responds, “Do you think that makes you appear courageous? Because you’re mistaken. You’re a coward, Alkar. You exploit the innocent, because you’re unwilling to shoulder the burdens of unpleasant emotions.” Cowardly and selfish, Alkar is not the hero he thinks he is. He took the easy way out of dealing with emotion, unconcerned about the harm it did to others. Meditation is difficult, and learning to deal with strong emotion is difficult, but in the end, the rewards are far greater.

 

End of my Prenatal Class May 21, 2013

Filed under: yoga — R. H. Ward @ 12:40 pm
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Last night was the seventh time I taught prenatal yoga at EEY this spring, and it’ll probably be the last time, at least for now. I’ll be traveling for Memorial Day next week, and Sarah will most likely be ready to teach the class again starting in June.

Teaching prenatal this spring has been really great for me. It showed me, first of all, that I can still teach yoga – even after a baby, even when my own practice is suffering or nonexistent – and still deliver a worthwhile experience for my students. I learned more about teaching prenatal to students at different places in their pregnancies. I learned about teaching a yoga class to just one person, too – I had only one student at last week’s class, and a different solo student at this week’s class, and in both cases I think I handled it better than I did the first time it happened. I asked the student what she wanted to work on, and then tailored the class based on her requests and the stage of her pregnancy. Last week we talked about core strength; this week, focusing energy in an active yoga practice to better facilitate relaxation afterwards. I felt much better about both of these classes as a teacher, and I really had fun with it.

Overall, teaching prenatal this spring has reinforced how much I love prenatal yoga and reminded me of how much I love teaching any sort of yoga. What will my next yoga teaching adventure be? Who knows what the future holds!

 

Happy Mother’s Day May 14, 2013

Filed under: reflections,yoga lifestyle — R. H. Ward @ 2:00 pm
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For Mother’s Day this year, I wanted to share just a few of the things that inspire me about my mother, Diane. My mom has been struggling with a chronic illness for the past 25-30 years and has had three major surgeries, as well as countless unpleasant procedures and medication regimens. She’s had long periods of remission, but also long periods when her illness flares up and causes her frequent bouts of debilitating pain. She’s had to make drastic changes to her diet and other habits in order to keep her disease in check – it’s something she manages on a daily basis.

But what I want to share about my mom isn’t the disease that life has handed her – it’s her refusal to let that disease define her life. When I was a kid, Mom went back to school part-time to earn her associate’s degree, and later her bachelor’s and master’s degrees, all while working, taking care of her family, and dealing with her illness (she had two of her surgeries during this period). I get my respect and love for education from her. She also jumps at every possible opportunity to see and experience the world and just have fun. She loves to travel, always makes time for her friends, and will drop everything to hang out with her granddaughter. She always has some project going, like repainting the bathroom or digging a pond in the backyard. Everyone I know is inspired by her wild holiday decorations. As a teacher, my mom has inspired many students to achieve their best, all while pretending she doesn’t really care. Mom is passionate, enthusiastic, and has a great sense of humor, and rarely do people realize how much of what she does is done in the presence of great physical pain. Mom accepts what is but lives in the moment, never letting hold her back from living her life. I may be a yoga teacher, but I can learn a lot from her attitude.

Happy Mother’s Day, Mom.

 

Guest Post at 5 Cities 6 Women May 13, 2013

I’m happy to announce that I have a guest post up this week at one of my favorite blogs, 5 Cities 6 Women!

My post is about breastfeeding, pumping, and mom-life balance. It was fun to write a blog post and not feel like I somehow had to bring it around and relate it back to yoga and wellness. I hope you’ll go check it out, and while you’re there, take a look at what Katie and the other ladies are up to. There’s always something interesting happening at 5 Cities 6 Women.

 

practicing non-attachment at the car dealership May 9, 2013

Filed under: reflections,yoga lifestyle — R. H. Ward @ 1:46 pm
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This past weekend brought me a new opportunity to practice non-attachment and letting go when my husband F and I bought a new car. We traded in our old car, which had previously been MY old car: a 2007 two-door black VW Rabbit I called “Buddy.” Trading Buddy in was definitely the right decision – it had been increasingly difficult to get YogaBaby in and out of the backseat, let alone travel any distance with her and her stuff. But it brought up a lot of memories.

I bought Buddy brand-new in summer 2006. I had just moved back home to Philly after being laid off from job in Boston and breaking up with my boyfriend of over six years. On the drive from Boston to Philly, my old car, full of my stuff, had started making funny noises, and while the car made it to PA, the issue turned out to be unfixable. I needed a car: I was living in the suburbs with my parents, I had no idea where I’d end up working, and I also had made big plans for a solo road trip. I was single, and so I bought a two-door car since I didn’t need to think of anyone but myself. (This situation resulted in some other purchases that later turned out to be unfortunate, such as a beige couch, but I digress.) After making so many changes in my life at once, the car was just the latest, and it came to represent my fresh start. Being in the car was like having my own little sanctuary when my parents’ house didn’t quite feel like my home anymore. I have great memories of the first road trip Buddy and I went on together, just a few days after I bought him: we drove to western Massachusetts for a wedding, then to Tennessee for another wedding, then to visit friends in North Carolina. It was a great trip, driving for hours with the windows down, singing along with the radio, just the two of us. Once F and I started dating long-distance, Buddy drove me to the airport many times so I could pick F up or fly to meet him somewhere for an adventure. Buddy and F got to be better friends once F moved cross-country to settle with me in Philly (F drove Buddy to work every day while I took the train). When we moved from my one-bedroom to a place large enough for both of us, Buddy drove us there; the day after our wedding, we stuck a “Just Married” sticker on Buddy and headed for the Poconos for a mini-honeymoon. Buddy’s been house-hunting, yard sale deal hunting, and to and from IKEA many times. Then in July, Buddy carried two of us to the Birth Center, and brought three of us home.

That little VW was a damn good car, and it was hard to say goodbye. But even as I personify my car and talk about Buddy like he was a real person, I know that it was just a car. What made Buddy seem like, well, a buddy was all the good times I had in the car, and all the different milestones that happened while I owned it. I don’t need to keep the car to remember my history. Buddy served me well, and it was time to move on. He’ll be a good car to some other single woman on her own, and he’ll have lots of new adventures.

So on Saturday, I let Buddy go, and we welcomed a Subaru Forester to the family. With its heated seats, sunroof, and roomy backseat and trunk, the Forester has a lot of positive qualities, and we’re getting along well so far. I can already see that I’ll have to practice non-attachment with the Forester too, but I’m looking forward to making many new memories as YogaBaby grows.

 

goals in mainstream fitness May 7, 2013

Filed under: wellness,yoga lifestyle — R. H. Ward @ 1:12 pm
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Earlier this week, Heather turned me on to this interesting post: It’s Time for a Makeover of Mainstream Fitness, by Ruthie Streiter. When Heather read it, it reminded her of the identity-based habits I was talking about earlier this year, and I agree completely.

First of all, I love that Streiter is advocating that people really think through their body’s particular needs and problems before embarking on an exercise program. So often, people take up a diet or fitness regimen just because it’s the latest fad, or it worked for a friend, but every body is different and has different needs. What is fantastic for one person’s body could be catastrophic for another, and result in no change at all for someone else. Planning out your exercise program in a thoughtful way can help you to save time and ensure that your actions will result in positive change – after all, who wants to spend hours on vigorous exercise if you don’t enjoy it (which is how most Americans feel about working out) and if it’s hurting you?

And Streiter’s article fits in well with the idea of identity-based habits. Remember, identity-based goals are the opposite of appearance-based goals (like “I want to lose ten pounds” or “I want a flatter tummy”). With an identity-based goal, you’re thinking, “I want to be a healthier person”, “I want to be a balanced person”, and, starting from there, you work on making healthier choices, day by day. Just starting out with that frame of mind could make the difference and keep you from throwing yourself into an exercise regime that’s not right for you. You’re not focusing all your energy on this one small aspect of yourself (your weight, your tummy), which could go wrong so easily; instead, you’re working on gradually changing your whole identity to that of a more healthful person, so you’ll naturally think in more holistic terms. And when you set an identity-based goal, the changes you make will last longer because you’re not only creating a new habit, you’re reinventing yourself, reimagining yourself, as a healthy sort of person, so your behavior will naturally come more and more in line with your goal.

A new month has just begun, and spring is springing up all over. It’s a great time to go play outside, enjoy the fresh air, and pick up the season’s first fresh produce at the farmers’ market. It’s a great time of year to think back on your New Year’s resolutions and recommit to working toward a balanced, healthy lifestyle in the way that’s best for you.